Law Schools

Distracting sex-harassment allegations spur law dean to take leave of absence

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Case Western Reserve law dean Lawrence Mitchell has announced he is taking a temporary leave of absence because of the “distraction” of a pending suit that accuses him of retaliation and possible sexual harassment.

In an email to faculty and students, Mitchell said he is confident that the university’s review of the allegations will show he has done nothing wrong or improper. “I intend to take full advantage of the legal process to seek justice,” he wrote. The National Law Journal and the Cleveland Plain Dealer have stories; TaxProf Blog links to additional coverage.

Case Western Reserve law professor Raymond Ku claimed in an Oct. 23 lawsuit that the university retaliated against him after he reported Mitchell’s “unnerving and creepy” back rub of a colleague and “sexual flirting” during an August 2011 party. Ku alleged he was constructively discharged from his position of associate dean for academic affairs after a “campaign of retaliation” in which Mitchell sought to discredit Ku and excluded him from matters related to his job.

Ku filed an amended complaint last week with new allegations, including an assertion that a law student had reported Mitchell’s proposition for a threesome to another law professor. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on the new allegations and linked to the amended suit in this story.

“Before Dean Mitchell arrived at Case Law School to begin his deanship, his reputation preceded him,” the suit says. “Members of the search committee and the Case Law School faculty, including Professor Ku, were aware of concerns about Dean Mitchell’s sexual behavior at [George Washington University Law School], including at least one sexual relationship with a law student and other inappropriate and questionable conduct.”

Mitchell apparently saw his position as law dean as powerful, according to the amended complaint. “In relation to the performance of his duties as dean of the Case Law School, Dean Mitchell stated vehemently, ‘I am a dictator,’ ” the suit says.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer spoke with lawyer Daniel Dubé, who said he was the person identified in the suit as Administrative Staff Member 3. Dubé was allegedly transferred and laid off after reporting his concerns to university officials. According to the suit, Staff Member 3 reported Mitchell’s alleged sexual relationship with a law student, and reported that Mitchell had retaliated against Ku. Staff Member 3 was offered a severance package in exchange for a nondisclosure agreement, but he refused to sign it, the suit says.

Administrative Staff Member 3 also said Mitchell had proposed a threesome with the staff member and his date during a party at Mitchell’s home, pointing out the new Chinese silk sheets he had purchased. “Administrative Staff Member 3 did not welcome this sexual proposition from his boss (and had no interest in Chinese silk sheets) and declined to engage in the ‘threesome’ with Dean Mitchell,’ ” the amended suit says.

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